January 23, 2008
They met in a bar. Heime’s in Cheviot, Ohio
Laura is dying. She is six years younger than me. She had suffered through Myelodysplastic syndrome — a variety of blood cancer — and the treatment. I was her blood stem cell donor. She did not die of MDS. But she was not going to make it. She was dying of pneumonia. This is a distinction without a difference.
These are my notes and thoughts as I sat with Jeff and their sons in the hospital as I sat with them in the ICU watching Laura die.
Notes from that day
- regular breath pattern
- soft hands
- calmly still
- rumpled sheets and hospital gown
- a stillness that is almost sinful to disturb
Robby and Jeffy
- sitting and thoughtful pondering the situation
- sitting with laptop – a game lights his eyes (some)
- bandaged bruised and battered
- at 9:28AM after discussion; the ventilator was going to be turned off
- Laura is being maintained by the O2 and the machine
- morphine and atavan to help her be comfortable
- it could be a miracle
- he cleans the tubes atavan then morphine
- doing his work – nursing (Chad)
- a nice young fellow
- can she recover?
A song jumps into my head as an ear-worm
Nobody knows where the
love of God goes
when (despair) turns the
minutes to hoursWreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald, Gordon Lightfoot
Jeff is distraught with grief. Questioning his own decision
How do I feel? (-Ted H. called)
DISAPPOINTED – that the science has not mastered the disease
SAD – that it is Laura’s turn to go.
SAD – that death has stalked my family so but Laura can visit with Dad
- a misting vent is added to the mix. Allows Laura to breath on her own with O2 added (10AM)
- Frank the breathing specialist
- green liquid is vacuumed from her stomach
- Laura is breathing on her own (10:05am)
- the detritus of medicine on the floor… the wrapper of an alcohol swab, a sterile hypo. cover
- it is hard to watch the light go out of a person
- Dr. Essel came in to visit. Laura is tough – lasting a long time
In the end one realizes how fragile life is.
Laura is living on her own – with no machines to help – with no drugs to influence – her body is working on its own unaided.
It should not happen this way given the amount of support she was on.
Maybe the support was the problem not the solution.
January 24, 2007 9:15AM
HR: 126, O2:96, BP: 57/25, RR: 36
Laura lasted through the night. Her BP is about the same, HR is a little higher. RR a little higher. Resting peacefully.
I brought some work to do. I did not think I could sit and write all morning. Death is a terrible thing to watch.
Temp 103 | 129 |94 |36
9:40am – She seems to be slipping
Laura is developing an arrhythmia to her heartbeat. and her breathing. Breaths are shallow and rapid.
Jeffy appeared at 10:00AM. he is “tuff” and strong. No tears? Why is that important?
2 alarms: Run PVC’s High and vent rhythm
Be not afraid Laura. Dad went before you. He is waiting on the other side.
Jeffy is quiet, pondering. Presents a posture of boredom but he is young and has a whole life yet. This is probably imponderable.
Vent Rhythm | Run PVC’s High | Missed beat
Light gold quilt blanket for patient to lay under. Simple knotted quilt.
Jeff holds her hand and talks to her. Powerful emotions. Like any man does not want to weep in public. We are brought up to believe it is unmanly. Is it?
Red Alarm – High Tachy High HR – over 150
Life is tenuous delicate fragile fleeting And without love is... companionship is ... laughter is ... family is ... hope for the future ... ... without Meaning.
Laura’s life was none of these. There was always love. The love that comes from hearing children yell and play. The love that comes with raising those children to be independent. The love that comes simply from living life. The love that comes from allowing others to learn from your own death.
They met in a bar called Heime’s. Is it still there? I don’t know answered Jeff when I asked him. They found each other in life and had two children. Two boys. Laura is proud of them. She should be. They are both strong willed and self driven.
Sometimes there is too much companionship. But most times we don’t have enough. Being alone is not good. We must never allow each other to be alone at the end.
Alarm: Vent BIGEMINY
A life needs laughter. Dad told me to try to find humor in what you were doing even if the situation was dire.
The most recent situation is dire.
My thoughts at her Funeral Service
Does anyone know where the love of God goes when the waves turn the minutes to hours? – Gordon Lightfoot
Laura’s storm started in May of last year and as it raged in her body the storm tide rolled over her several times. The final time was January 24″ 2008. I learned a great deal during this process but as I sat with her and Jeff during the last hours of her life I thought about just that, life.
Life is tenuous. Life is delicate. Life is fragile. In the larger scheme of the cosmos, life is fleeting, And life without love and companionship and laughter and family and hope for the future is without meaning. Laura’s life was none of these. There was always love. There is the love that comes from hearing children play and their exuberance for life. There is the love that comes with raising those children to be independent and successful. There is the love that comes simply from living life and occasionally smelling the roses. There is the love that comes from allowing others to learn from your own death.
There was always companionship. I asked Jeff as we sat there, “How did you and Laura first meet?” “We met in a bar called Heime’s”, he replied. “Is it still there?”, I asked. “I don’t know”, he replied. But they had found each other in life. They were companions, travelers through life. They were best friends and in love. Sometimes there is too much companionship, but most times there is not enough. Being alone especially during a traumatic illness is not good. We must never allow each other to be alone at the end.
There was always laughter. A life needs laughter. Dad told me to try to find humor in what you were doing even if the situation was dire. The most recent situation was in fact dire, but Laura and I tried to find humor where we could. In her first stint in the hospital Laura had a feeding tube in her nose. Her throat was so sore from the chemotherapy medicine that she was unable to swallow so nutrition was given that way. This tube drove her nuts but eventually we knew that all good things must come to an end. The tube was removed and Laura and I had a little celebration. She wanted something sweet and cold. I went out to the coffee bar in the lobby and got a chocolate frappe with whipped cream. This concoction was mixed with ice and blended to a cold and frosty smoothie style consistency. But it was rich, plenty of sugar and cream. I brought it to her and she tasted it. She pronounced it good and yummy and she drank it straight down as though she had spent 40 days in the desert which, in a way, she had.
A few minutes later it all came back up. I held a pan for her and when she was finished I helped her clean up a little. We discussed it and decided that perhaps that was not the best pick for a first drink after a long abstinence and a still delicate stomach. After that as she recovered and struggled with other things I would ask her, “Another chocolate Frappe?” She would laugh and reply, “Not right now, maybe later.”
There was family. Laura and Jeff have two sons. She was very proud and protective of them. As you look at some of the older pictures with Laura and her children you see a radiance that can only come from motherhood and family. We would gather at their house in Green Township for barbecues and during the holidays for more traditional meals. Laura loved to cook and she was good at it. These family gatherings were loud and boisterous as they should be when families gather.
I invited others to share stories about Laura. Remembrances and memories. I went first:
She and I would have lunch on her birthday (December 28). On one particular date a couple of years before her death, She was excited because she and Jeff were planning a major rehab of their farm house in Indiana before they moved there permanently. Over lunch we chatted about various details and the overall plan. She was planning their transition into empty nesters. She was happy that day.
The last few months have been hard on the Fisher’s and the Weisgerber’s as we visited and supported Laura as much as we could in her struggle with leukemia. But let us not allow that time to overshadow our memories of Laura. My own favorite memory is of my sister in her kitchen cooking, tasting each dish as it neared completion, every pot and pan that she owned out and scattered about the kitchen, leaning on the counter-top glass of wine in hand, wisecracking with her boys. She was in her element there and that is how I choose to remember her.
In a luncheon at my mother’s house after Laura’s funeral service, one of Laura’s friends from work or the west side of town came up to me. She told me that Laura hated Gordon Lightfoot’s music and in particular the “Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald”. I still wonder why it was important for her to tell me that.
I took a photography class at MU. I was blessed with this picture.